All Quiet on the Western Front

Essay by Anarchy123College, UndergraduateA+, May 2004

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Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, a novel

set in World War I, centers around the changes wrought by the war on

one young German soldier. During his time in the war, Remarque's

protagonist, Paul Baumer, changes from a rather innocent Romantic to a

hardened and somewhat caustic veteran. More importantly, during the

course of this metamorphosis, Baumer disaffiliates himself from those

societal icons--parents, elders, school, religion--that had been the

foundation of his pre-enlistment days. This rejection comes about as a

result of Baumer's realization that the pre-enlistment society simply

does not underezd the reality of the Great War. His new society,

then, becomes the Company, his fellow trench soldiers, because that is

a group which does underezd the truth as Baumer has experienced it.

Remarque demonstrates Baumer's disaffiliation from the

traditional by emphasizing the language of Baumer's

pre- and post-enlistment societies. Baumer either can not, or chooses

not to, communicate truthfully with those representatives of his

pre-enlistment and innocent days.

Further, he is repulsed by the banal

and meaningless language that is used by members of that society. As

he becomes alienated from his former, traditional, society, Baumer

simultaneously is able to communicate effectively only with his

military comrades. Since the novel is told from the first person point

of view, the reader can see how the words Baumer speaks are at

variance with his true feelings. In his preface to the novel, Remarque

maintains that "a generation of men ... were destroyed by the war"

(Remarque, All Quiet Preface). Indeed, in All Quiet on the Western

Front, the meaning of language itself is, to a great extent,


Early in the novel, Baumer notes how his elders had been facile

with words prior to his enlistment. Specifically, teachers and parents

had used words,